Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

Opinion

Europe’s bishops discover what we all knew: most Catholics reject teaching on sexual morality

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

ROME, February 10, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – For four decades, faithful Catholics throughout the western world have publicly lamented the near-total absence of teaching on moral issues from Catholic pulpits – now a Vatican survey has incontestably shown their concerns were justified.

The German and Swiss Catholic bishops have issued the results from their countries of a survey initiated by the Vatican in October asking what Catholics believe and adhere to when it comes to Church teachings on sex and the family.

The bishops’ conferences of Germany and Switzerland have issued reports on the findings of the survey that found nearly all Catholics dissent from Catholic teaching. The report conveyed the findings of all of Germany’s 27 dioceses and about 20 Catholic organizations. It said “‘pre-marital unions’ are not only a relevant pastoral reality, but one which is almost universal” and that the great majority of respondents felt Catholic teaching on sexual morality is “unrealistic.”

“Between 90 percent and 100 percent of couples who seek a Catholic wedding are already living together, despite church teaching that sex outside of marriage is sinful. … Many, in fact, consider it irresponsible to marry without living together beforehand,” the German report said.

The Swiss report, which surveyed Catholics who attend church regularly, found that while they “fully agree on the importance of sacramental marriage” it is “difficult to accept the Church’s doctrine on the family, marriage and homosexuality.” About 60 percent said that the Church should “recognize and bless” same-sex unions, and there was “strong disagreement” over contraception. The “number one” request of Swiss Catholics, however, was that people who had been divorced and remarried outside the Church should be allowed to receive Holy Communion.

Both reports said that Catholics believe the Church is “unmerciful” on the subject of the divorced and remarried. “Divorce and remarrying frequently lead to a process of becoming distant from the church or of widening the existing gap,” the German report said. “Many no longer wish to be associated with an institution which they regard as unforgiving.”

The issue is being pushed hard by the German hierarchy, who have already announced that they intend to defy the restriction and allow such Catholics to receive Communion.

Honduran Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, chairman of Pope Francis’ advisory commission of eight cardinals, appeared to support their view recently when he publicly chastised the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal-elect Gerhard Müller, telling him to “be a little flexible” on the issue.

The Vatican issued the survey as part of its preparations for the upcoming Synod of Bishops that Francis has called to examine issues facing the family in the modern world. Such surveys are part of the normal procedures for such large international events, but are normally answered only by bishops and Church officials. In this case and for the first time the laity was invited to give responses, and the local dioceses were asked “to share it immediately as widely as possible to deaneries and parishes.”

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The response showing the nearly universal rejection of Catholic moral teaching by Mass-going Catholics, including some priests, bishops and even cardinals, are surprising to no one with the least acquaintance with contemporary Catholicism. Libraries of books have been published on the subject of the widespread rejection of Catholic moral teaching on sexuality since the promulgation of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, Humanae vitae, on artificial contraception. Hundreds of polls taken over the last four decades have shown a steady decline in Catholic adherence to the media’s favourite “hot-button” issues of pre and extra-marital sex, divorce, homosexuality, cohabitation, contraception and abortion.

In 1987, Bl. Pope John Paul II said during a visit to Los Angeles, “It is sometimes reported that a large number of Catholics today do not adhere to the teaching of the Catholic Church on a number of questions, notably sexual and conjugal morality, divorce and remarriage. Some are reported as not accepting the clear position on abortion. It has to be noted that there is a tendency on the part of some Catholics to be selective in their adherence to the Church’s moral teaching.

“It is sometimes claimed that dissent from the Magisterium is totally compatible with being a ‘good Catholic,’ and poses no obstacle to the reception of the Sacraments. This is a grave error that challenges the teaching of the Bishops in the United States and elsewhere,” the pope said.

The observation of the disconnect between official teaching and what is commonly heard at the parish level was more recently confirmed by the cardinal archbishop of Boston, and a member of Pope Francis’s inner advisory council of 8 cardinals. Early in his pontificate, the secular media ran with a quote from Pope Francis who said that Catholics should not be “obsessed” with “issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods”. Cardinal Sean O’Malley, in an interview with the Boston Herald, corrected those who had interpreted Francis’ comment as a request to drop discussion of moral issues.

“The normal Catholic in the parish might hear a sermon on abortion once a year. They’ll never hear a sermon on homosexuality or gay marriage. They’ll never hear a sermon about contraception. But if you look at the New York Times, in the course of a week, there will be 20 articles on those topics. So who is obsessed?” O’Malley said.

The cardinal added that the Church’s teachings are “very clear and very consistent” and its defense of human life is “a great service to society.”

US Catholic apologist and media personality Michael Voris, who has been sharply critical of much of the Catholic hierarchy for what he says is its failure to teach or defend these doctrines, told LifeSiteNews that no one “should be surprised by any of this.” The Church, Voris maintains, has since the end of the Second Vatican Council in 1965 largely adopted a policy of ‘go-along to get-along’, and has downplayed, ignored and in some cases outright denied these teachings.

“This is why the ‘church of nice’ must be obliterated,” he said, adding that it is ironic that O’Malley is one of those complaining that Catholics have not heard the Church’s moral teachings from the pulpit, since he is prominent among “the ones responsible for it.”

“And the exact same response could be made to [New York’s Cardinal] Dolan or [Washington’s Cardinal] Wuerl,” Voris added. “They laid the dynamite and when the culture lights it and it explodes, they lament the results. And they continue to lay it, even while lamenting its results.”

Voris, however, was supportive of the Vatican’s initiative in addressing the issue, however late in the day. Although the situation is known by everyone, “so far,” he added, “there has been no hard data except occasional Gallup polls showing folding parishes, the shrinking priesthood.”

“I think something like this is very helpful for the cause of the authentic Church. Now we’ve got real data, that no one in the Church can refute, that we can use to pound the point home.”



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